Summary of Knowledge claims and Questions from Skype session Friday, April 28, 2006

KC#1 The Massachusetts Union of Teachers (M.U.T.) tries to be pro-active about educational policy.

  • Who sets educational policy?
  • What does it mean to be proactive?
  • Which states have unions that are proactive?
  • What’s the opposite to proactive?
  • What does it take for the M.U.T. to get out there to try to shape policy?
  • Are these proactive unions being very successful in trying to shape policy (or are they swamped trying to respond to the demands of No Child Left Behind, etc.)

KC#2a The [M.U.T.] executive is aware that advances in genetics have captured a lot of media attention

  • What kinds of media? (e.g., television, newspapers, films, documentaries, representations in novels …others?)
  • Would knowing how people’s ideas are being formed helped teachers get over their confusion on the merits of these arguments?
  • Have other parts of biology also captured attention, e.g. developmental biology? New developments or findings in education?

KC#2b … and reinforced the idea that most human characters are governed by a genetic blueprint.

  • Who says how widespread this idea is?
  • What is meant by a blueprint?
  • What range of ideas is there about what people mean by a genetic blueprint?
  • How often is the blueprint image used in talking about education and school achievement (as contrasted with [it’s use in] general science discoveries?
  • What other images for the role of genes are there – e.g. “program” Others?

KC#3a This has combined with the push for high-stakes testing (i.e., high stakes for public school funding, not only for students)

  • Who is pushing for high-stakes testing?
  • How did the normal “tests” in school get rolled back? What is the longer historical perspective on this?
  • What are these test based on?
  • How are they made?
  • Is there a “testing” industry and how can it be characterized or described in a political sense?
  • Do the tests work?
  • What do we know about this approach to improving educational performance?

KC#3b … and with more than two decades of cut-backs in government funding for social programs.

  • Where is that funding going [instead of social programs]?
  • How do cutbacks relate to a long-term historical perspective – and specifically to arguments such as do social programs breed dependency, etc.?
  • Who is interested in pushing for social programs to be cut?
  • What are their ideas about motivation, nature vs. nurture, etc?

KC#4 The result seems to be widespread skepticism about the possibilities for education to boost children's intelligence.

  • What is mean by intelligence?
  • Widespread skepticism among whom?
  • Is there a factual basis for their skepticism? Is there factual support for it?

KC#5a One argument for high stakes testing is that it is needed to motivate harder work among students

KC#5b [Can] hard work make a difference?

KC#5c If hard work can make a difference, what does that say about the argument that IQ is inborn?

KC#6 Teacher's preconceptions about students' potential (or lack of it) can be self-fulfilling.

KC#7 Generalizations about groups (e.g., African-Americans or ESLimmigrants) often get translated into preconceptions about individual students

KC#8 Almost everyone speaks about addressing the needs of diverse learners.

KC#9 Teachers … are confused about the arguments on intelligence being inborn versus changeable

K: There are different arguments on intelligence
A: These may lead to different learning styles
Q: What are the different types of intelligences and how can they be applied?
F: Howard Gardner’s Theory on Multiple Intelligences

K: Intelligence is nurture not nature
A: How class affects intelligence
Q: What is the larger picture of the nature nurture debate in regard to intelligence?

K: According to these misinformed teachers nature causes lack of intelligence
A: Teachers not teaching well, perpetuating the problem
Q: What is the role of genetic causation?

K: Different approaches need to be taken to teach with Inner-City kids
A: What method will best suit teaching in this environment
Q: What methods have been used specifically for teaching those of a lesser class?
Q2: What is the sociological research available behind kids from lower classes?
Q3: What are comparative systems of education in developing countries?

K: Governments cut-back on spending for social programs
A: The public schools in areas of lower taxes suffer
Q: What are the direct economic consequences of these actions?
Q2: How are they being remedied?

K: The IQ Test is a respected measure of intelligence
A: The results of this test determine a child's role in academia
Q: What are the counterarguments to this notion?
Q2: What role does the IQ test currently play in academia?
Q3: What is the history of the IQ test?